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Auction: 23006 - The Official COINEX Auction at Spink
Lot: 159

William III, Solus (1694-1702), 'Second Bust' Pattern Half-Guinea, 1696, struck in silver, in February or March 1696/7, Tower, by Henry Harris [?], GVLIELMVS • III • DEI • GRA, laureate bust 2 right, lock of hair across truncation, rev. MAG BR • FRA • ET • HIB • REX • 1696 • small crowned shields cruciform, emblem-adorned sceptres in angles, five strings to shapely harp, edge obliquely milled, 2.95g, 5h (cf. SCMB Sept. 1954, pp. 367 and COVER COIN; W&R -; Bull -), old scuff through the mouth and a tiny scratch to right of French shield, otherwise lightly toned, a pleasing very fine, the highest denomination extant for the short-lived 'Second Bust' of the Great Recoinage of 1696-97, not just in private hands but in institutions also, unknown prior to Rayner's discovery in 1954, UNIQUE, and of the greatest numismatic intrigue


Baumhauer, Part 2, Sincona 75, 16 May 2022, lot 169

H E Manville, Spink 140, 16 November 1999, lot 616

Baldwin, by private treaty, May 1981

SCMB, September 1954, wherein illustrated on the cover:


By P. A. Rayner

There has been much controversy in the past concerning the coins of William III showing his portrait with the hair across the breast - the so-called second bust. Many numismatists believe them to be patterns, which, indeed, may be so in most cases.

There exist two distinct series of these pieces ; one with a broad head and thick curls, which I shall refer to as bust 2, and the other with a much narrower bust with very 'wiry' hair, and in higher relief, which I shall call bust 2a.

The coins with bust 2 consist of the following pieces:-

Crown, 1696 - National Collection (British Museum) : unique

Shilling, 1696 - Lord Hamilton of Dalzell (Spink 3, 21 February 1979, lot ???; Private Collection

Sixpence, 1696 - Extremely Rare [ESC, R5]

Sixpence, 1697 - Only Moderately Rare

In addition to the above, there has recently come to light a pattern half-guinea in silver, dated 1696, with an undraped bust of similar style to the other coins of this series. We have this piece for sale.

The coins with bust 2a comprise the following :

Crown, 1696, National Collection (British Museum) : unique

Halfcrown, 1696, Ditto (British Museum)

Sixpence, 1696, Ditto (British Museum)

There is also a punch and an obverse die for a half guinea in the Royal Mint Museum (cf. Hocking, pp. 15, no. 197a), which show a bust remarkably similar to the coins listed above : no coin is known from this die.

Considering first the sixpences of this reign, this denomination being the commonest on which the second bust is found, some tentative suggestion regarding the sequence in which the various types were struck may be made, and thus it may be possible to date the second bust coins to within a month or so.

It should be remembered here that the old style calendar was in use at this time, and any coins struck up to March 25th would bear the date 1696.

Of the sixpences of this reign, the obverse and reverse types are listed below:


A - First Bust

B - Second Bust [Bust 2]

C - Second Bust [Bust 2a]

D - Third Bust


i - Large Crowns, early harp

ii - Large Crowns, late harp

iii - Small crowns, late harp

The following combinations are found:

1695 - A/i

1696 - A/i [common] ; A/ii [rare] ; A/iii [very rare] ; B/iii [extremely rare] ; C/iii [unique]

1697 - A/iii [very common] ; A/ii [rare and only exists at provincial mints: Bristol, Chester and Exeter] ; B/iii [rare] ; D/ii [very common for Tower, scarce provincially] ; D/iii [common for Tower, rare provincially]

There also exists a 1696 Sixpence of York (Y) with obverse D and reverse i ; this is obviously a mule struck in 1697 when an old reverse die of 1696 was used in error.

The comparative rarity of these types after A/i, based on the numbers which have passed through my hands, or are shown in my records over a period of some eight years, raises some interesting points. These figures are shown in parenthesis in the table of comparative rarity. Broadly speaking, the rarest types of 1696 are the commonest of 1697, for example, type A/iii is definitely rare dated 1696, but it is the most common first bust coin dated 1697.

The figures for A/iii lead one to suppose that the reverse iii was prepared very late in 1696 O.S. It is significant that obverses B and C are found with this reverse only, therefore these obverses were also most probably prepared at the very close of 1696 O.S, possibly in February or March. Coins with bust 2a may well have been patterns for the issue of which coins with bust 2 constituted a tentative current coinage
. Quite likely it was very soon decided to reject these latter also, and probably only a very few obverse dies were made - perhaps only one each for the Crown and Shilling.

I have seen three different obverse dies for the sixpence dated 1697, one of which was the same as that for the 1696 coin in the Parsons collection, but possibly more exist. One would expect a greater number of dies than for larger denominations, as the sixpence was much more in demand.

In 1697, these few obverses were probably used up, paired with the type iii reverse, which was then in use at the Tower mint. It is most interesting to note that only reverse iii is known with the first bust obverse for this mint, dated 1697, and also that reverse ii, with large crowns, does not exist for Tower, and only occurs of the provincial mints Bristol, Chester and Exeter.

In this context we may remember that James Roettier was barred from engraving coinage dies from February 2nd 1696/7, and that prior to this he had prepared five hundred pairs of dies in 1696 for the Provincial mints. The earliest coins of the 1696 were of the type A/i, and there exist also, rarely, type A/ii. I suggest these latter pieces, only known of the Tower and Bristol mints, were struck from dies prepared from punches intended for type A/i coins, but with the substitution of a late harp punch. These harps are a main feature of the coinage of 1697 generally, and this seems to indicate that these pieces also were produced very late in 1696. As will be seen from the rarity type, they are rare. The A/ii coins of 1697 which, as I have previously mentioned, only exist of three provincial mints, and then only rarely, I suggest formed the remainder of the 500 pairs of dies made in 1696 by Roettier, or, at any rate, from his punches, with the addition of the late harp, as in the case of the 1696 A/ii pieces mentioned above. When these type ii reverses became reduced in numbers through wear and they would of course wear out more rapidly than the type A obverses with which they were used, type iii reverses would be supplied from the Tower.

This would explain the apparent substitution of reverses of types ii and iii in the provincial sixpences of 1697, and the relative rarity for this date of type A/ii as compared with type A/iii. The third bust coins must be a later issue than the first although they probably overlapped considerably.

The half-guineas present an exactly similar pattern to the sixpences, except that only one bust, with or without Elephant and Castle was used for the current coins.

The reverse types are as follows: -

i) Large crowns, early harp

ii) Large crowns, late harp

iii) Small crowns, late harp

These types occur as under:

1696 - i

1697 - iii

1698-1701 - ii

There is no overlap as in the case of the sixpences. It is interesting to note that all the 1697 pieces have a small crown, late harp reverses, as do the first bust Tower sixpences of this year. Here also we see a return to the large crown type, but in this case in 1698. As the unpublished second bust half-guinea in silver has a reverse iii, and is dated 1696, its position in the series must correspond to that of the 'bust 2' sixpence dated 1696, i.e. February of March 1696/7. The pattern bust 2a punch and obverse die in the Royal Mint were possibly also produced at approximately the same time, probably slightly earlier. Considering all the foregoing evidence it seems most probable that all these second bust coins were the work of Harris, or one of his assistants, immediately following upon the disgrace of James Roettier in February 1696/7, and that these designs were abandoned in favour of Croker's third bust.

Since Rayner's observations, Maurice Bull has conducted further study on the development of the harps in the gold specie of William III, and has conclusively shown the adoption of a more shapely 'late harp' for the 1697 Half-Guinea coinage. EGC 433 records this currency issue and corroborates the use of five strings, rather than three of four of the 1696-dated coinage, exactly as depicted on the Pattern Half-Guinea now offered. This would further indicate the likelihood of Rayner's date-range hypothesis about the production of the second bust Patterns and currency-strikings under the engravership of Henry Harris after 2 February 1696/7.

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